Sepsis is a severe blood infection that can spread throughout the body. Dr. Karen Fairchild, a neonatologist at the University of Virginia Health System says, "if we detect it late it can be very, very damaging and even fatal. Once the baby shows signs of sepsis, they may already be very, very sick."
Doctors at the University of Virginia developed the Hero Monitor to help pick up on the subtle signs early. Every hour it identifies changes in babies' heart rate patterns that happen early in sepsis. Then it creates a score from zero to seven.
Dr. Randall Moorman, a cardiologist at the University of Virginia Health System explains, "if your hero score is 1 you have exactly the average rate of illness. If your hero score is 2 you have twice the risk."
Dr. Mooman says, in a study of 3,000 infants, those on the Hero Monitor had their risk of death cut by 20 percent.
Researchers at UVA have been working on the Hero Monitor for more than ten years and it's now being used in a handful of neonatal intensive care units around the country.